War of Beasts
Designed by Thomas Charpentier and illustrated by the designer and Lorenzo Uccheddu, War of Beasts is essentially a quick trick-taking card game with the look and feel of a fantasy combat game. It's published by Charper Edge.
The game comprises a deck of 72 Beast cards and 48 modifier cards. The Beasts are numbered 1-12 and each has one or two elements that correspond to the four that feature in various combinations on the modifier cards. We were pleasurably surprised to find that all the cards in the deck - both Beasts and modifiers - are unique: there are cards, obviously, that have the same values but each has its own name and distinctive art.
Each of the 2-6 players is dealt a hand of seven cards and that must contain at least one Beast. Each round, the lead player plays a Beast card in front of them. They can also play +1 modifier cards to increase the Beast's value provided these match the Beast's element(s). The next player must play a Beast with a higher or matching value, tho' they may also play a -1 modifier to reduce the value of the previously played Beast. When a Beast is beaten, it is discarded. The round ends when no player is able to at least match the value of the Beast left in play. That Beast goes to the player's score pile where it will be worth the number of gems shown on the card (1-4). Given that the higher value cards are always the most likely to win, we were surprised that the number of gems on each card increased with the card's value: from our plays at Board's Eye View we felt it would potentially have been more interesting if the lower value cards had more gems on them than the high-value cards - incentivising players to try to finesse a win with a low-value card when high-value cards had previously been spent on other tricks.
There's not a lot of scope for strategy here: modifier cards notwithstanding, you'll expect rounds to be won by the player with the highest value card. There are special rules for ties but these simply involve the players flipping cards from the draw deck and the highest Beast winning. War of Beasts tho' is primarily aimed at children, and they're bound to enjoy the mix of real world and fantasy creatures on the cards. We just can't avoid the nagging thought that this interesting deck of cards hides the potential for a more challenging game for older players. It certainly lends itself well to the development of variant rules.
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